- Theresa May will push the button on no deal Brexit planning if there is no breakthrough in talks this week.
- UK and EU negotiators are still a long way from a withdrawal deal in Brussels.
- The EU wants the UK to accept some single market rules as part of the backstop for avoiding a hard Irish border.
- Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss the precarious state of Brexit talks.
LONDON – Theresa May is on the brink of officially triggering contingency plans for a no deal Brexit with the chances of negotiators in Brussels agreeing on a withdrawal deal this week looking increasingly slim.
Thursday, November 15 is reportedly the deadline for the UK government to confirm no deal measures like the hiring of boats for importing vital products plus the stockpiling of medicines and pharmaceutical goods.
This means that unless May is unable to put a provisional Withdrawal Agreement before ministers at the Cabinet’s next meeting on Tuesday, there almost certainly won’t be an EU summit this month to finalise the UK’s exit.
A no deal Brexit would cause severe disruption across multiple facets of day to day British life. New border checks could lead to shortages of food and medicines, ministers have warned, while planes could be grounded.
Despite talk of an imminent breakthrough in Brussels, there are still major issues to be resolved in Brexit talks relating to the backstop policy for avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Brussels has said it will let the UK stay in a customs union with the EU as part of the backstop proposal, as May requested. However, the UK wants the right to unilaterally pull out of this arrangement, which Brussels will not allow.
A senior UK government source told Business Insider on Monday that they were pessimistic about the prospects of a deal this week.
The source said that a deal would need to be secured by the end of play on Wednesday, if a summit was to be agreed this month. However, they added that: “I wouldn’t go getting your hopes up.”
Brexiteers fear that under the backstop model being negotiated, the UK will be trapped in a customs union with the EU for years after Brexit without a guaranteed end date, unable to sign new trade deals with countries around the world.
House of Commons leader and senior Conservative Andrea Leadsom, warned on Sunday that MPs would not accept this sort of arrangement, telling the BBC: “I don’t think something that trapped the UK in any arrangement against our will would be sellable to members of Parliament.”
This week new issues have emerged over the backstop. The EU is adamant that by staying in a customs union after the Brexit, the UK must also accept some single market rules to ensure there is a “level playing field,” the FT reports.
Under this model, the UK would adhere to strict environmental rules, like getting 32% of its energy from renewable sources. It would also answer to the European Court of Justice on matters relating to state subsidies to companies.
A senior EU source told BI last week that Brussels was not going to budge on this issue and that “all of the activity is in London” where May is trying to get government ministers on board with the EU’s proposals. The pound was down almost one per cent against the dollar on Monday morning amid concern over the state of Brexit talks.
If there is a deal, the UK is set to continue following swathes of EU rules for years after it has left the bloc, with little say in shaping those rules. This is angering Conservative MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate.
Pro-Remain MP Jo Johnson resigned as transport minister on Friday over May’s handling of Brexit talks, accusing the prime minister of leading Britain to a “boundless transitionary period.”
He added that May was forcing Brexit two choices on the country – her deal or no deal – and that “to present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.”